Dr. Richard Pan & Vaccinate California Respond to New State Data Showing that Kindergarten Vaccine Rates are at Highest Point Since 2001

April 12, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and author of legislation aimed at boosting vaccine rates, hailed new data released today by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) demonstrating that, in its first year of implementation, Senate Bill 277 is raising school vaccine rates to levels not seen in a decade and a half. 

“I am pleased that this first year of the implementation of SB277 has resulted in the significant rise of the vaccination rate of this year’s Kindergarten class,” said Dr. Pan. “This success is a first step toward reducing the number of unimmunized people putting our families at-risk for preventable diseases, thereby restoring community immunity throughout our state in the coming years.”

The results posted today by CDPH in their annual immunization assessment, show that the proportion of kindergarten students who received the required vaccines dramatically rose from 93 percent during the 2015-16 school year, to 96 percent during the 2016-17 school year, a rate above the 94 percent needed to prevent measles transmission. www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/immunize/Pages/ImmunizationLevels.aspx

Dr. Pan jointly authored SB 277 with Senator Ben Allen (Santa Monica) and the bill was sponsored by Vaccinate California, a parent advocacy group formed to improve public health by raising vaccination rates. 

“As a grassroots group made up of concerned parents and community members we are encouraged by today's report,” said Leah Russin a mother and co-founder of Vaccinate California. “There is no doubt SB277 is working, which means a healthier, safer California. We are confident overall vaccination rates will continue increasing as parents protect their children and communities, making our state more resilient to preventable disease outbreak."

Students entering school in 2016-17 are the first to be enrolled under Senate Bill 277, which abolished the personal belief exemption to legally required vaccines for school entry.

Previously, Dr. Pan authored Assembly Bill 2109 in 2012, which required all parents who sought a personal belief exemption from vaccines to be counseled by a licensed health care provider.  In the first year that law was implemented, the rate of vaccine waivers for kindergartners entering school declined to 2.5% in 2014 from 3.1% in 2013; the first reversal of a decades-long increase in use of personal belief exemptions.

Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.  However, in the same year, the disgraced author of a fraudulent paper published in The Lancet in 1998, which the medical journal later retracted, appeared on a 60 Minutes broadcast falsely claiming the MMR vaccine caused autism.  Stoked by unfounded anxiety about vaccines, personal belief exemptions to legally required vaccines for school entry rose in California until the implementation of AB 2109, and the United States saw a rise in measles and pertussis outbreaks.  As parents demanded the restoration of community immunity to vaccine preventable diseases, Dr. Richard Pan and Senator Ben Allen authored SB 277 after a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland infected 136 people, and the death of 10 infants in the 2010 pertussis outbreak in California. 

The CDPH data shows that while vaccination rates rose for this Kindergarten class, there are still large numbers of unvaccinated people who were exempted from vaccination when they entered school in previous years, and it will take years before community immunity to vaccine preventable diseases is fully restored throughout our state.

Contact: Shannan Martinez​,  (916) 271-2867​

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